It took the Harvard hockey team a period and a half to shake the opening-game jitters and get itself untracked, But when the Crimson Machine finally revved itself into gear, it exploded with lightning suddenness to squeeze past an improved Northeastern team, 5-4, last night at Watson Rink.
The key Harvard outbursts came in a one-and-a-half minute span late in the second period when the Crimson struck for three goals to overcome a 2-0 deficit.
Northeastern had been hit with an unusual simultaneous double penalty, as one Husky was high-sticking a Crimson player while a teammate was interfering with Harvard's George Hughes in the crease, setting up a 5-on-3 power play situation for Harvard.
The line of Phelps Swift, Bill Hozack, and Mike Leckie wasted little time in taking advantage of the opportunity, with senior wing Swift notching Harvard's first goal of the season at 15:37 on a wrist shot from 15 feet out. Hozack had set up the goal with a fine centering pass from the left corner.
Junior wing Leckie tied it at 2-2,23 seconds later, picking up the rebound of a Todd Nieland slap shot and backhanding it over the sprawled NU goalie.
More fireworks came a minute later when freshman Bill Horton scored with Harvard shorthanded. Captain Kevin Carr had gone to the penalty box for the second time, seemingly killing Harvard's momentum. But Horton blew down the left side and let go a slap shot that the NU goalie saved. Dave Bell just skated past the rebound, but Horton alertly followed up his own shot to give Harvard a 3-2 lead.
Prior to the Harvard succession of goals, Northeastern had carried the play and had maintained a well-earned 2-0 advantage. The Huskies got their goals early in the second period, the first, by Mike Ledoux, coming at 9:23 and the second on a 5-on-3 power play at 11:16.
Harvard came out in the third period skating hard and extended its lead to 5-2. Sophmore defenseman Kevin O'Donoghue, who was a standout in his first varsity effort, let go a blast from the point on a power play situation to up the margin to 4-2 at 7:54.
The Crimson seemingly had everything well in hand at the 9:56 mark when Kevin Burke tallied in a crease scramble to make it 5-2.
But Northeastern wasn't about to roll over and play dead. A turning point came when Harvard had to lift goalie Brian Petrovek, who apparently suffered an injury, in favor of backup John Aiken, who was coming off the bench cold.
The Huskies took to the attack, and scored two goals within 15 seconds, at 11:23 and 11:38, to make things close again, both scores coming from freshman Ledoux for the hat trick.
Northeastern continued to press against a Harvard team that was clearly tiring and becoming disorganized, and twice just missed sending the game to overtime.
On one chance, goalie Aiken was beat but the puck just barely slid past the far post.
A minute later Aiken got lucky again as a hard shot bounced off his right calf and went behind him, but deflected off his back leg through the crease.
It's apparent that this Harvard squad isn't of the calibre of last year's, but it's also apparent that it's a team that is going to improve game by game.
Weak-hearted Harvard fans can only hope the wins won't be as traumatic as last night's.